NFL Mock Draft 2020: Projections for Round 1, Analysis for Underrated Prospects

Keegan PopeContributor IIIApril 19, 2020

Arizona State wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk runs a drill at the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

By this point, the names Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and Chase Young have been burned into the brains of anyone with even a fleeting interest in the 2020 NFL draft.

Hours—likely even days or weeks when all combined—have been spent by draft analysts and NFL front offices dissecting the top available prospects in this year's class. But only three teams can draft those players. Elsewhere, particularly at the end of the first round, playoff contenders and even the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs are hoping to land an immediate difference-maker.

Who might be the next surprise pick you weren't expecting? And who could be the next franchise cornerstone buried beneath the big names at the top of the heap?

     

2020 NFL Mock Draft, 1st Round

1. Cincinnati: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

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2. Washington: Chase Young, DE, Ohio State

3. Detroit: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State

4. N.Y. Giants: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson

5. Miami: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

6. L.A. Chargers: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

7. Carolina: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn

8. Arizona: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa

9. Jacksonville: CJ Henderson, CB, Florida

10. Cleveland: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama

11. N.Y. Jets: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia

12. Las Vegas: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

13. San Francisco (via Indianapolis): CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

14. Tampa Bay: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville

15. Denver: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama

16. Atlanta: Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina

17. Dallas: K'Lavon Chaisson, OLB, LSU

18. Miami (via Pittsburgh): Josh Jones, OT, Houston

19. Las Vegas (via Chicago): Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU

20. Jacksonville (via L.A. Rams): Antoine Winfield Jr., S/CB, Minnesota

21. Philadelphia: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

22. Minnesota (via Buffalo): Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama

23. New England: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State

24. New Orleans: A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa

25. Minnesota: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State

26. Miami (via Houston): D'Andre Swift, RB, Georgia

27. Seattle: Curtis Weaver, DE, Boise State

28. Baltimore: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma

29. Tennessee: Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State

30. Green Bay: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

31. San Francisco: Raekwon Davis, DT, Alabama

32. Kansas City: Cesar Ruiz, C/G, Michigan

     

Jordan Love, QB, Utah State

Not surprisingly, Love has been the least talked-about of any potential first-round quarterbacks. Not only does he come from a Group of Five program at Utah State, but his senior season was also a significant drop-off from his junior campaign.

Burrow and Tagovailoa are likely guaranteed to be off the board after the first five picks, and Justin Herbert, last year's preseason Heisman favorite, checks every box of the prototypical NFL quarterback.

But don't sell Love short. He can make every throw on the field, and a large part of his senior slump can be attributed to a drastic lack of pass-catching talent. Unlike Power Five schools, G5 programs don't simply bump another 5-star into the lineup and continue rolling. Both of Love's top receivers from 2018 graduated, and his production took a hit. Still, he connected on 62 percent of his passes while throwing for more than 3,400 yards.

A team like the Las Vegas Raiders could be a potential early suitor, but with Derek Carr and Marcus Mariota on the roster, it's hard to see the Raiders taking another QB in the first round. Instead, maybe Bill Belichick fills the biggest hole on the New England Patriots roster with another unheralded quarterback. It seemed to work pretty well the last time.

    

Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State

Most of the 6-foot Aiyuk's measurables or statistics don't jump off the page, but if one does, it's his average of 18.3 yards per catch. And that's exactly what makes him such an intriguing prospect.

Despite catching only 65 passes, Aiyuk racked up nearly 1,200 yards and eight touchdowns in his second season in Tempe after transferring in from the junior college ranks. According to Pro Football Focus, Aiyuk's average of 9.9 yards after the catch is the best among all draft-eligible wideouts, and he averaged an eye-popping 31.8 yards per kick return and 16.6 yards per punt return in his final season at ASU.

For the Minnesota Vikings, a team desperately in need of a receiver to play alongside Adam Thielen, a playmaker like Aiyuk could open up the field in a big way while adding a return-game dynamo to the special teams unit.

   

A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa

In a draft that is severely lacking in depth at the defensive end spot, Iowa's mauling All-Big Ten defensive end could be a nice value pick at the end of the first round. He didn't start a single game as a sophomore in 2018, yet he led the Hawkeyes with 10.5 sacks before adding 11.5 more as a junior as the focal point of opposing offenses' schemes.

He's not an explosive athlete like Chase Young is, and he's unlikely to be an elite-level pass-rusher in the NFL capable of drawing double-teams. But NFL.com projects him as a starter in his first two seasons and compares him to Cincinnati Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap. If his production comes close to matching Dunlap's—81.5 sacks and 223 quarterback hits in 10 seasons—whichever team drafts him at the end of the first round would be downright giddy.

   

Follow Keegan on Twitter, @ByKeeganPope.